Citizen Science for the Chesapeake Bay - SMART Bay ARC

Latest update April 18, 2019 Started on February 17, 2018

The Strategic Mobilization of Autonomous Research Technologies for Bay Assessment, Restoration, and Conservation. This pilot project will address the need for a program that combines technologies with persistent outreach and education, focusing on citizen scientists and students, engendering community involvement and activity. This approach supports a road-map towards a Chesapeake bay holistic 4D assessment such that restoration and conservation can better support the ecology and economy of the Chesapeake Bay watershed. This program is designed such that it fulfills this need and lays a foundation for continual outreach and community engagement by bringing together technology subject matter experts from public and private sectors as educators and infuse development and deployment skills needed to continue restoring the Chesapeake Bay to a vibrant and strong economically sound biologically diverse ecosystem.

February 17, 2018
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Greetings enthusiasts!
It has been a fantastic pilot project. This is our last post as we close out this effort and prepare our next steps for a refined course offering here on the lower Chesapeake Bay. We wish to thank our participants, volunteers and partners who have made this effort a reality. Look forward to future expeditions linked to these efforts as we refine this effort and others as we continue to educate and explore throughout the Chesapeake Bay region. Thank you for following and keep questioning, investigating, and learning. may we, through our efforts as stewards of the bay, become better stewards of our communities, and of our world.


Awesome Jim! Great project and glad it's well documented here for others to build on.

Chesapeake Citizen Science Buoy Data Summary


Calibration of pH sensor was performed (buffer solutions of 4, 7, 10) Calibration of conductivity sensor failed (hardware issues) Site Protocols were used to add a Hydrology site to the GLOBE system: Watermens Pier Latitude: 37.24005N Longitude: -76.510579W Elevation: -38.3m Location captured with GPS with boat at final deployment location Body of Water: York River Water Body Type: Brackish Water Body Source: River Width of Moving Water: 801.736776m Water Sample Location: Pier Bottom not visible Channel/Bank Material: Soil, Rock, Vegetated Bank Bedrock: Mixed Sediments Freshwater Habitats Present: Vegetated Banks, Sand Substrate Saltwater Habitats Present: Sandy Shore Pictures were captured with boat at final deployment location (North, South, East, West, Upward, Downward)


End of rock barrier, buoy tied between three dolphins. Downriver of Yorktown Ammunitions Pier. Below and upstream of Coleman Memorial Bridge. Some hole digging construction next to Watermen's Museum. Site was labelled with 18 flags, used to create site map diagram Single water temperature measurement taken with alcohol thermometer during initial test deployment. Reading was 6.5deg Celcius at 1:53PM (3 measurements are required for globe data entry - not enough, also reading may have been invalid based on other water temperature sensors referenced by VIMS on the same day)

Initial test deployment captured data from microbit and feather systems. Microbit could not acquire GPS lock, so measurements could not be timestamped. Source code was modified to include local system timestamp before final redeployment (and GPS antenna was added). Initial test deployment of pH wireless sensor resulted in no readings - sensor was not enabled correctly. pH meter was corrected for second test deployment by using the “Remote Logging” feature, which should result in the sensor blinking yellow, which will then allow capture of data after retrieval. The data on the pH sensor from the second test deployment (not at final deployment site, closer to the shoreline), was left on the device and still requires download - data should correspond to a starting time of 2:35PM.

Turbidity measurements were first taken from the end of the pier (not the deployment location) for practice and explanation using 2 different sized secchi disks provided by VIMS. Readings were higher in turbidity than the actual deployment location (approximately 30cm?). Turbidity measurements were taken using a bucket to extract water directly from the final buoy deployment location. Sample water was poured into turbidity/secchi tube and measured by 3 different people resulting in measurements of: 3:14PM: 24.0cm, 26.2cm, 26.2cm

Data was entered into the GLOBE system: Sample water extracted from the final deployment location was examined under microscope for algae identification. Sample included what appeared to be (not confirmed) an average count of 3 dinoflagellate heterocapsa triquetra per observation.

Final deployment of the buoy included attachment of 2 ropes to the dolphins, leaving the microbit active (green LED indicator light) and the feather board active (red check mark).

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Project Summary: Remotely Operated Vehicle (ROV)

Our team was in charge of running the ROV to get video, temperature, and conductivity of the water. We started the day out by calibrating the temperature, pH, and conductivity sensor. The calibration procedure went smoothly on the non-electronic conductivity sensor, the temperature sensor (electric and nHi Jim,

Our team was in charge of running the ROV to get video, temperature, and conductivity of the water. We started the day out by calibrating the temperature, pH, and conductivity sensor. The calibration procedure went smoothly on the non-electronic conductivity sensor, the temperature sensor (electric and non-electric), and electric pH sensor. However, we notice the Presco conductivity sensor was off and there was no manual way to calibrate the sensor. We then set the ROV up for exploration by attaching the temperature and conductivity sensor. We had difficulty syncing the ROV with Sandy's phone and we think that is due to the fact she had a new Pixel 3 android phone, because when working with setup on other older android phones it synced just fine. We then put the ROV in the water I gave a demo of how to work it and let the citizens start playing with it. It was difficult to see the phone screen due to the light and we tried to mitigate that the best we could with a towel. After our first deployment was finished we then went to check our sensors and video. The video turned out well, but the conductivity sensor had got water in it and all data was lost. Also, we realized we did not setup the temperature sensor. My group then went to check the turbidity of the water with the other groups. After that, we shared our experiences to the group and went out on a second deployment. For the second deployment we wanted to try and find where the oyster beds were that was shown in the images from the drone. We were not able to find them with the RV, but we did see some fish and gave more people a chance to navigate the ROV. We also setup the temperature sensor, but we ran out of time at the end of the day to retrieve information off the sensor.

What worked:

-Training on the ROV was easy -Running the calibration of sensors was a good start to the day -When it was shady the camera on the ROV was good to navigate with -There was a community in navigating the ROV, because one person would tell the navigator where to go -The group turbidity test went very well

What didn't work:

-The conductivity sensor -We didn't have enough time to gather temperature data -It was difficult to see when navigating the ROV -Communication with new android phones to the ROV


-Better organization on timing (i.e. be done with your activity at this time for first part of the day) -Start with everyone doing site map (on first day?) -Have everyone there for calibration -Show a timeline of events to the groups on projector/paper -If there are as few people there as this time, have less activities throughout the day -More GLOBE training on the first day (protocols, calibration, etc...) -For ROV have them communicate more with the drone to see where is the best place to search -For ROV have tablet with bigger screen to maybe see video better

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The video is low res and rough, but you can see how the algal bloom increases over time.

Project Summary: Autonomous Surface Vehicle (ASV)

After attending a series of lectures on Saturday, 3/23/2019, the citizens interested in the autonomous surface vehicle (ASV) deployment gathered and started preliminary plans for deployment, to take place one week later, on 3/30/2019.

The team planned to start the day close to the Watermans Museum Carriage House to gain experience operating the vehicle, and then move to the pier on the Eastern side of the bridge to begin searching for the HMS Betsy.


GPS Downchirp sonar Water temperature sensor SD card for saving / recording data Radio control Pixhawk autopilot system


Given the equipment listed above, the primary mission of the ASV is to collect water depth measurements in shallow water regions that traditional manned boats are unable to access. This will help the Virginia Institute of Marine Science (VIMS) to have a more thorough understanding of the shallow water regions. Additionally, if detailed depth maps are made of the shallow water regions along the river, it may become possible to compare such depth maps over time to understand any erosion effects that are taking place along the riverbanks. It is also possible to attach an algae collecting net to the ASV to gather algae samples, but this capability was not planned to be used during the March 2019 deployment.

Deployment Day Events

Note: The following event history is based on recollection of the events after the fact, so time periods are subject to reasonable error and estimation. 10:30 am: Team lead arrives, starts setting up laptop with ground station software 11:30 am: While testing the ground station & ASV, it is observed that the ASV is not receiving a connection to the handheld radio control system. It is determined that the cause was a small power wire on the radio control module breaking, most likely during transit of the ASV. Jim heads out to pick up a soldering iron for repair. 11:50 am: The team is able to borrow a soldering iron from a closer source and begin repairs, Jim is called back. 12:00 pm: Matt Mahlin begins briefing the gathered teams on the plans for the day. 12:20 pm: Jim returns, repairs on the ASV are complete, all teams begin deployment activities 12:30 pm: ASV ground station is set up on the Watermans Museum pier and ASV is deployed in shallow waters. ASV team lead begins teaching ASV team how to operate the vehicle controls and the ground station software. 12:30 pm – 1:15 pm: ASV team takes turns controlling the vehicle and monitoring the trajectory displayed on the ground station software. Manual radio control is used to follow a grid trajectory as closely as possible, attempting to map the shallow water region in which the ASV was deployed. 1:15 pm – 1:45 pm: The ASV team attempts to use the ground station software to set waypoints for the ASV autopilot system to follow. 1:45 pm: Due to Jims assistance, the team figures out how to set waypoints in the ground control software, upload them to the ASV, and then enable autopilot control. 1:45 pm – 2:00 pm: The ASV team returns to manual control of the ASV to finish sweeping out a grid for the shallow water region. 2:00 pm – 3:00 pm: All teams return to the carriage house for lunch break. 3:00 pm: While examining sonar data, it is discovered that while data was collected, it was not set to be recorded to the SD card. 3:30 pm: The ASV team prepares for a second deployment in the same area as the first, making sure to enable sonar data recording this time. 3:30 pm – 4:15 pm: The ASV team uses manual control to try once again sweeping out a grid of the shallow water area. 4:15 pm: The ASV team decides to venture slightly outside the rocky breakwater. This is done on full throttle. 4:15 pm: Just outside of the breakwater, the ASV stops responding to commands from radio control. Jack goes out in a kayak to retrieve the ASV. Jack has difficulty both getting the ASV back to shore and paddling the kayak at the same time. An ASV team member throws a line to Jack so that he can tie the ASV to his kayak, freeing up both of his hands to paddle. 4:20 pm: Jack resets the arm/disarm switch to arm, the ASV team begins operating the ASV once again, fully within the shallow waters. 4:25 pm: The ASV, once again on full throttle, stops responding to commands again. Jack heads back out to retrieve it. It is observed that the red arm/disarm switch is flashing an error code. While towing the ASV back to shore, Jack observes smoke coming from inside the ASV. 4:30 pm: Jack gets the ASV back to shore. Jack, Matt, and Nick unscrew the ASV lid and observe scorch marks in the tube containing the battery, and nearly melted wires. The batteries are disconnected from the rest of the electrical system. The team suspects that the incident was caused by the wires between the battery and the rest of the electrical system were too small to handle the current draw from the batteries while at max throttle. The sonar data is examined, and it is verified that data was collected and recorded. 4:35 pm: The ASV team heads back to the carriage house. All teams brief the others on the events of their deployments. 5:00 pm: Cleanup begins of the carriage house. 5:05 pm: All parties spend the next 3 hours making fun of the ASV team lead, calling him “General Cornwallis”, and accuse him of “trying to sink more boats in the York River.” Everyone is greatly amused. 6:00 pm: Cleanup is finished and all equipment is loaded. Remaining parties go to the Water Street Grille to celebrate.


Several lessons were learned from the ASV deployment: To ensure that the sonar is turned on and all equipment is recording, all projects could benefit from having a deployment checklist, analogous to a pilots preflight checklist, of steps that must be taken to ensure a successful operation. It is a good idea to start deployments off in shallow waters, near other projects. This ensures that everyone can learn how to operate the vehicles, and if there are any difficulties, help can arrive quickly. Also, if things do go wrong, the damage is minimized because the water is not too deep, currents aren’t too fast, etc. When testing out equipment, it should be tested at both nominal operating performance, and at max throttle (or equivalent for other projects) to ensure that the vehicle can handle the entire envelope of commands that can be sent to it. The ASV would benefit from having the top cover redesigned, so that it is easier to access the internals for maintenance, data checkout, and verification. The ASV would also benefit from having a tow line easily accessible, in the event that a retrieval operation is needed. Fragile electrical connections should be reinforced so that the vehicle can withstand transport and possibly rough water conditions. In general, the ground station software and radio control worked very well, and it was easy for the team members to learn and start using them quickly.

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There is so much data!
One of the most interesting observations we made was in regards to a current algal bloom in the York River. Our VIMS colleagues informed us that we would see Dinoflagellate as the primary algae within the bloom.

And that we did.

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In The Field

During the morning setup, the water was a cool clear fade into green blue...however, we learned from our colleges from VIMS, we had an algal bloom event. Dinoflagellates all over the place. You can see the brown in these aerial photos. You can see the brown patches and swaths in the photos delineating the bloom.
We confirmed this with our microscope in our command center at the Carriage House. We'll get the microscope images our soon!

You can also see where algae is some SAV(Submerged Aquatic Vegetation) lies in the calmer waters behind the breakwater piles.

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WOW! What a day!

We had simultaneous systems deployed and collecting data. 4 heterogeneous systems gathering data and feeding into each project concurrently!

We are diligently getting video and data analysis together to give a proper debriefing,.

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Greetings enthusiast!

Here are our deployments plans for our 4 platforms!

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What a fantastic first day! From bay history, key health indicators, and marine sanctuaries, to unmanned measurement platforms and hydrosphere protocols, doing cloud yoga and introducing drone technologies to students and citizens, we think we've spent a beautiful Saturday afternoon preparing for our technology deployments.

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We hope to post video soon! Say tuned, we have our most exciting part happening on the 30th!

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Greetings Enthusiasts!

Tentative agenda for the outreach below. We can't wait to see everyone!

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Greeting enthusiasts!
We are days away from our exciting adventure here on the York river. We've been very busy getting the demonstration projects ready and want to give you all a sneak peak.

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Greeting enthusiasts!

We are days away from our exciting adventure here on the York river. We've been very busy getting the demonstration projects ready and want to give you all a sneak peak.

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Greetings enthusiasts!


We are hosting the new Smart Bay Assessment, Conservation, Restoration (ARC) pilot course for citizen science on March 23rd and 30th at the Watermen's Museum, located in our Carriage House at 309 Water Street in beautiful Yorktown VA. This is a pilot course. So, we must limit the class to an adult audience. Future classes will be open to a much wider audience. Class times will be 12 pm to 5 pm on Saturday, March 23 and 12 pm to 5 pm on Saturday, March 30. Cost is $15 per person. There are no prerequisites. To reserve a seat in the class, please email:

Here's a brief overview of the purpose of the course. Attached is also a flyer.

Vision/mission: Empowering the local community of scientists, citizens, and students to work together to better understand and improve the Chesapeake Bay environment.

Purpose/What we are doing: Engage citizens directly for science on the bay using select technology projects by conducting a multi-day course that covers bay issues, scientific data collection methods, and technology demonstrations/instructions enabling citizens to pursue active bay stewardship.

Educate people on science for the bay *Educate people on available technology for bay science *Provide deployment/technology projects *Connect citizens with local experts/scientist in the areas of: *Archaeology *Bay health/ecology/hydrology *Engineering/technology **Scientific data collection/training and certification

Greetings enthusiast! I want to take a moment from our preparation sprint to give you all a sneak peak at the types of topics we will be discussing during the 2 day Citizen Science for the Chesapeake Bay class and the projects we will be introducing. We hope you will learn about bay issues and the technologies that are available for the citizen scientist to go out, explore, educate, and advocate for a healthy Chesapeake Bay watershed. Day1: Topics that will be presented and discussed (Please understand that these are still tentative and subject to change) 1. Introductions and Keynote 2. History on the Chesapeake 3. Bay Issues, Indicators, and the use of Drone technologies for Assessment 4. Archaeology and Anthropology on the Bay 5. The Global Learning and Observations to Benefit the Environment (GLOBE) Program 6. Marine Technologies and Bay Science 7. Projects for Day 2 Day2: (Again, a work in progress and subject to change) 1. Remotely Operated Vehicle deployment and hydrology data acquisition, oyster reef assessment 2. Aerial drone deployment with meteorological and coastal data acquisition 3. Scientific Buoy deployment and hydrology and weather data acquisition 4. Manned boat with plankton nets, Nishkin bottles, etc. with hydrology data acquisition Students will first be introduced to the history, issues, and technologies concerning bay health and assessment, then have introduction of the projects. The class will break into teams and be assigned a project to then study and deploy, collecting water samples and data for collection and submission into the GLOBE data platform. We hope to see you there!
I'm looking forward to following along! Your are addressing many topics that I just learned about that the Citizen Science Conference in Raleigh - so I can't wait to learn more. Thanks for sharing!

Hello everyone! We are planning on implementing some really creative, low cost, and DIY technologies to do useful science! I personally get excited about the equipment and engineering we use in science. So I just wanted to share a little bit of what we have been working on. One piece of hardware that I've taken lead building for the class is Andrew Thaler's Niskin3D water sample collector ( ). With a 3D printer, soldering iron, and some hand tools you can create a usable and really snappy water sampler. The design I've gone with uses just cheap servo tester to provide the PWM signal to drive the servo activation. With the flip of the power switch a water proof servo pulls a retaining pin and Wham! the Niskin bottle is sealed! We just completed 5 units this weekend! So hopefully our students will be taking their own samples in the York River just this next month. In the mean time it is time for me to do some reliability testing of my build. Of course, we will be sharing more about the awesome equipment we'll be using as the class approaches and we're open to your ideas! Stay tuned! -Matt


The GLOBE Hydrology protocol.
Greetings enthusiasts, We will be using the GLOBE Hydrology protocol for our data collection training. Please visit:

In order to enter data into the GLOBE system, participants will need to be familiar with at least one of the protocols in the hydrology module. We encourage everyone to take a look at all the materials available from the GLOBE website.

Some key points about GLOBE: GLOBE connects students, teachers, scientists and other citizens from around the world to conduct real, hands-on science in their communities. GLOBE includes a variety of grade level-appropriate, interdisciplinary activities and investigations aligned to national and state educational standards, which integrate easily with curriculum. GLOBE's activities address scientific topics relating to the atmosphere, biosphere, hydrosphere, and pedosphere (soil), and vary in complexity, allowing them to fit into virtually any grade level curriculum. GLOBE's elementary, or primary, science program provides an accessible platform for teaching hands-on science, inquiry, observation and data collection. GLOBE's secondary program delves into practices of science including data analysis, critical thinking, collaboration and communication. GLOBE provides a springboard into research projects such as science fair projects, afterschool activities, and honors projects. It's also an excellent tool for engaging students not previously interested in science. GLOBE materials are available in a range of languages, and the program makes more languages available to all as the community provides translations.

Points for the course: Review the Hydrosphere module, focus on: Introduction to Hydrosphere Water Temperature Water Transparency Electrical Conductivity Water pH


Greetings enthusiasts!
We would like to announce that the Citizen Science for the Chesapeake Bay, Smart Bay ARC, will be held at the Watermen's Museum, March 23rd and March 30th in Yorktown, VA. We will be announcing sign-ups for the course soon. We will also be using Facebook, publishing to OE and Facebook during and post event.


Stay tuned for more information!


Greetings enthusiasts!
Let's talk some more about the kits we are gathering for the outreach course.

We have the submerged component in the last post, now let's look at the surface and aerial components we are considering.

DJI Mavic and Phantom QuadRotors Quad rotors are handy. Very handy when placed into the hands of ecologically conscious citizens. With aerial mounted cameras, we capture not only RGB images and video, but infrared data looking at coastlines and algal blooms, among other very interesting events, allowing for scientists to better study and understand the processing affecting the bay today. We also can gather Ozone data with these kits, opening up the spectrum of understanding in our tidal environment. With easy deployment options and control via phone or tablet, these quads are cost effective tools for the citizen scientist.

Marine ROVER Autonomous Surface Vehicle (ASV)...but more like an Unmanned Surface Vehicle Autonomous boats are a big deal these days as much as their aerial cousins previously mentioned. The NASA GLOBE folks have utilized and deployed a great kit for scientists. This R/C boat allows for a platform for power via solar cells, communications and mapping with GPS and WiFi modems, water sampling and sonar mapping with video capabilities all on one platform. Making one of these autonomous as with auto flight from the quads mentioned above requires only a flight computer, say a pixhawk2 or other, and a tablet or PC for a command station. We will be introducing this platform for the course in hopes that this kit will prove to be a valuable addition to the fleet of capabilities herein.


Greetings enthusiasts!
I'd like to take some time to introduce the varied packages/project ideas, and citizen/student tech we plan on employing for this project.

As there are various resources for DIY, we will be looking at combining some not-so-DIY kits with COTS DIY student kits for marine science. To highlight, let's take a first look at the not-so-DIY components of the course; note, we have not finalized this list so it is subject to change.


  1. OpenROV Trident(s)
  2. Blue Robotics BlueROV(s)

OpenROV Trident This 16x8x3.5 inch kit runs at 2 m/s top speed with power to fit light currents with a 328ft depth rating. It has a 95Wh energy capacity with a dive time around 3-4 hrs if flown responsibly. The 802.11 b/g/n WiFi interface makes it an ideal package to connect and dive with your phone or tablet. With 1080p video recording, this kit illuminates the depths and delivers high quality video. The Trident can also host GoPros and other small payloads per design. Containing an IMU with depth and temperature sensors, the Trident is a compact and capable marine science tool.

BlueRobotics BlueROV The BlueROV is a larger ROV and provides additional capabilities the the Trident was not specifically designed for. This kit, larger and more expensive, provides a tool kit payload capability that allows grippers, sonars, water sampling, and other attachments to interface with the unit, opening the science capabilities of our expedition. Coupled with the Trident, we add additional use case capabitlies for the course. The BluROV operates similarly to the Trident, however the topside interface requires QGroundControl running on a tablet or PC with an attached control pad. This is a little more cumbersome that the Trident, and increases the deployment difficulty. However, with greater depth capabilities depending on configuration (down to 1000m with the aluminum pressure housing) the BlueROV allows addition dive capabilities that we would otherwise need to spend 10s of thousands for.

My apologies Mark, I just noticed this post. We were just awarded a Trident from the SEE initiative, great program. I am not familiar with the aquarobotman. At first glance, with the nuemrous english errors on their website, it looked dubious. How is it?

MILESTONE! Greetings enthusiasts, We been out an about, gathering support for the pilot outreach program here in the Chesapeake and we are very pleased and honored announce that we are collaborating with the Watermen's Museum,, the Virginia Institute of Marine Science,, The Chesapeake Bay Foundation,, Tethys Oceanix LLC,, and representatives from NASA GLOBE, This is amazing!!!! We have kicked off course planning and will post course details in the upcoming month. We are looking to host the course in and on the York river early next year (yes, in a few months). So stay tuned!

Greetings enthusiasts!
Another great test outing has been ongoing. As mentioned in previous posts, here in the Yorktown River, there lies the Sunken Fleet of Cornwallis. If you aren't familiar with the Battle of Yorktown, I suggest you go here:

and here:

In summary, on October 19, 1781, the British surrendered to French and American revolutionary forces in what would become the last major battle of the Revolutionary War. The French fleet, lead by de Grasse, blockaded Yorktown while French and American troops, Lead by Washington and Rochambeau, advanced on British General Cornwallis' defenses at Yorktown. In fear of an amphibious attack, Cornwallis sunk his fleet to barricade the beachhead. Approximately 50 vessels, either sunk by enemy fire or scuttled, lie at the bottom of the York River.

~50 What does this have to do with bay assessment and conservation? Well, think about it, That's a good deal of material sitting at the bottom, plus marine life congregate around such areas. Assess the biodiversity surrounding these wrecks and looking at what impacts these wrecks are having is a valuable piece of datum in holistic understanding of the bay's ecosystems. In addition, shipping in the Chesapeake has been ongoing since at least 1607. And, ship wrecks have a way of romanticizing ocean exploration.

We've learned a few things about these wrecks. One, most of them are buried under layers and layers of silt. Two, most of them are unidentified. Three, nobody knows where most of them are. Now, the Watermen's museum, see link above, has invested in this historical site for years. In 1988, NOAA and National Geographic funded a full excavation of what was later identified as the HMS Betsy. The team, lead by Dr. John Broadwater, erected a steel cofferdam around the wreck to allow divers to excavate the site without current and turbidity issues that persist in the river.

I encourage you to read more about it! Check out June 1988 issue of National Geographic or visit the Watermen's museum either in person or at

We want to dive the wreck, but first we had to find the site. We've been learning about sonar technology for the pilot outreach course (information coming soon) and we picked up a Garmin echomap 44cv down chirp system. Great for a kayak or small fishing boat. We were amazed at how the sport fishing industry has brought the cost of high fidelity sonar into the hands of the layman. The Garmin was a great introductory peice of kit. We could have gone out and bought a $1200 sidescan from Hummingbird, but we wated to learn the lit first and really understand what we could do with a cheaper system, ~ 200, and see if it would do the job. We are still learning but the answer is, yes, it's great for this type of work. The kit also does bathymetry mapping and 260Hz, 455kHz and 800kHz sonar frequencies.

Take a look at the attached photos. You can see the cofferdam of the 1988 excavation, and the release JRS Explorations,, sonar images of a recent assessment in April of 2018. Our fish finder, though distorted due to a number of factors we are investigating, definitely returned the cofferdam corrugated plates that now lay 2-4 feet from the bottom, covering the excavation site( done to protect the wreck).

We are very excited about this and are currently planning a multi-ROV dive in the coming month! Stay tuned! (Arial image of excavation site from National Geographic, June 1988. Circular sonar image of HMS Betsy survey, JRS Explorations.)

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For some reason, I am not getting this notifications of comments, lol. Sorry, I just noticed this conversation. They'd have to be pretty small for the trident, and we'd need to design the payload specifically for it. Doable, though. The blue robotics kit may be a better setup for the sonar. Can you send me a link to the sonar system you are referring to?

Greetings Enthusiasts!
Another catch-up post. On July 30th, we managed to return to Indian lake, in Somerset County, PA. We needed to get back into the quarry, and we did. However, we hit the end of our 25m tether long before the bottom, as we were deploying off an island ans not directly over the trench.

Some interesting bits in the video. Certainly have fish of various types, and corroding metal pole protruding from the stone and mud. We took a look at the island support stones as well.

We also took some time to record hydrophone data. As you can imagine, engine/prop screw noise was dominant. This is unprocessed raw feed, so it's noisy.

Sorry for the delay!
We've been busy and have not been able to post as often as we would like. I'll be taking the next few posts to catch you all up.

We've made a few DIY hydrophones and have been gathering data around the Chesapeake. We've also returned to Indian Lake, in PA, and have dove deeper into the quarry. Additionally, we've made some dives at VIMS, in Gloucester Point, VA, working towards 3D modeling from the video feed of the oyster reefs in the area.

Oldest first: Yorktown, VA. 06/29/18 This was another kayak deployment. First we paddled past the beautiful 105 ft. Schooner, the Alliance to a ship mooring near where the HMS Betty was cofferdammed and excavated in1982.

Though we didn't find the cofferdamm as station keeping in the kayak with strong wind is nearly impossible, we did that some Hydrophone data. We are still post processing and trying to identify sounds sources, be them human or marine species origin.

You can hear, what we believe to be blue crabs clicking away, plus a yet to be identified possible cetacean call. Here's a snap-shot:

We then went across the York River and looked at some of the Oysters on the breakwaters.

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Greetings Enthusiasts!
Some updates on our preparation/learning phase. We've done some testing with deployment from a kayak at two sites. The beautiful Ft. Munroe/Comfort Point Mill Creek, and in Poquoson in White House Cove.

The Poquoson site had a good amount of trash, old crab pots on the marsh, signs, garbage...sad. Was having dive issues as well, no good video. The shot with the kayak and shallow water shot below are from Fort Munroe, the two garbage pictures are White House Cove.

The amount of trash in White House Cove is sad, it's right outside of the Plum Tree island National Wildlife Reserve.

The Fort Munroe site was excellent. So much here, and so much history!

Though, we've read that oysters spit...but seeing it is just amazing. Unfortunately, I didn't get any footage of it as the tide was going out and I forgot an anchor for my kayak, so much time was spent station keeping.

The raw ROV footage of some oyster reefs and test dives are below.

There were some issues. Sunlight was one of them as the kayak set up, well, wasn't really ready. However, this was a learning set of dives. And that we did.

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Love Kayak deployments. Videos not working for me, though. Did you make them public on Youtube?

Oh yeah. Sorry. They are now public.

Ticks...there are a large numbers of ticks in Virginia. But, that aside, we managed around ten bags of trash.

The trash was as mixed. Plastic, of course, was in the majority, along side glass beer bottles and tin cans, we found Styrofoam, tennis balls, a watering can, an oil pan, and cardboard. Strangely, as it park is also a fishing spot, we didn't find fishing line or old nets. Encouraging.

We also spooked a black snake...well, I think he spooked us more. Around 4 foot long.

All in all, the day was well spent. I encourage you to read more about the Bay restoration efforts from the links bellow.

Coming events, we are talking with 757 Makerspace about short course forthe marine robotics outreach. We hope to update you soon!

And additional upcoming events. We are nearing our Oyster Reef Assessment pilot expedition. More to come soon! Stay tuned.

Back Creek park Photos Continued.

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Wow, what a day. Clean the Bay Day!

We spent the morning of Saturday, June 2nd, at Back Creek park and boat landing, walking the area and picking up the flotsam and jetsam.

"While litter is easily prevented and can be picked up by anyone on any given morning, tackling the major unseen threats to the Bay watershed, like habitat loss, sediment, and nutrient pollution, requires broad and focused support. Clean the Bay Day often serves as a gateway program through which children and adults embrace environmental stewardship of their waterways. We hope you will help us in our mission to Save the Bay by learning more about the Chesapeake Clean Water Blueprint, our best and perhaps only chance to finally restore and protect the Bay and her rivers and streams." -- CBF

The morning started with unidentified fish breaching for their breakfast at 830am, as numerous fiddler crabs scurried about.

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A Surprise return to the western edge of the Chesapeake watershed. Back in beautiful Appalachia.
In a prior post we wrote about the Blue Hole Spring in Forbes state forest. Well, we found ourselves on an unplanned visit back to the area and able to explore the local famed swimming hole. And what a time we had. Crystal clear water. Crawfish, brook trout, and enticing rocky overhangs. Check out the videos!

We thought there might have been a cave opening but, alas, none was found. Total depth was about 2 meters.

We also had a chance to return to Indian lake, but alas we were driven out by a thunderstorm and could return. But we learned some more about the quarry that we started to dive and we were told about interesting things at about 80 ft. That the locals believes to be there. We will return to confirm! More on that later. Take a look at the short video that we captured. Not much to see but rock, but the dark depths we weren't able to get to are incredibly inviting.

I would like to mention that twice during this short dive, the ROV was hit by something...twice. couldn't capture what it was. No idea. You can see when in the video as the ROV suddenly pivots. We definitely need to return!

So, what does this have to do with the project? As stated before, the watershed is vast, and logging the tributaries is important in understanding what is happening, downstream, in the bay today.

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Lynnhaven Inlet Oyster Reef Assessment Proof of Concept Trials

Greetings Explorers! We are back in the Bay and have an exciting technology POC mission being planned with the Virginia Institute of Marine Science and the Chesapeake Bay Foundation. We are working on a Concept of Operations (ConOps) mission plan to test two of our ROV platforms using on-board video and GoPro payloads to visually assess targeted oyster reefs in the Lynnhaven inlet here on the beautiful Chesapeake Bay. Not only are we taking video, but we will be using the GoPro to capture images for the 3D reconstruction of the reefs, modeling and assessment tasks.

Structure from Motion, SfM is a photogrammetry technique that ranges camera distance from a sequence of images. Solving the camera resectioning problem, we can determine range, and inversely, structure through the sequence. In short, we solve the local camera position problem and build a 3D representation of an object. To learn more, please refer to Structure from Motion wiki.

You can do some pretty neat things with this. For instance,

Yes, cool indeed. Moving on, there is a scientific 'why?' here. Oysters are a big deal. Really big. Sure they taste good, fried, steamed, raw. They rock. But they represent something else, something far bigger then you are probably aware. Directly from the University of Maryland,, "The most widely known ecological function of the oyster is that they filter the water. Oysters are considered the vacuum cleaners of the Chesapeake Bay. They filter the water removing organic and inorganic particles from the water column resulting in cleaner water which positively impacts other species." But, oysters reefs also provide habitat and shelter for other species of marine life in the Bay and sustain a multi-tiered ecosystem, supporting life from the vary smallest, to the bigger bay fishes and, of course, us.

They are key indicators of Bay health and are fundamental to the ecosystem, which we are also a part of. Also, oyster reef, the naturally occurring ones, orient themselves perpendicular to prevailing currents. I had no idea that they did this. This is awesome. It makes sense, they are filter feeders so orienting themselves this way allows them to take advantage of the natural tidal currents generated, maximizing food intake. Studying this behavior is a key interest to the marine science community. (Also, Alan Turing had the math that explained behaviors like this modeled this in the '50s. Morphogenesis, look it up!)

Hopping of the soap box, we look forward to getting into the water in the next month, before it starts to get really warm here and the water tends to get more turbid. We'll update on expedition dates with in the week.

Other things to consider for this trek:

  • Best times for observations. Tides are a big deal. Slack tides may prove best for water clarity and weak tidal currents.
  • Volunteers needed...always. We have 1 boat with two guides from CBF. It would be better if we had two teams. (This is a call for volunteers, please contact me!)
  • General logistics. Working on this now.
  • ROV training. If you volunteer, you'll get this.
  • Assessment planning
  • Data post-processing and report.

Well, I hope this piques your interest. More to come soon!

Image of restoration sites citation: Lipcius RN, Burke R P, McCulloch D N, Schreiber S J, Schulte D M, Seitz R D and Shen J. (2015) Overcoming restoration paradigms:value of the historical record and metapopulation dynamics in native oyster restoration. Front. Mar.Sci.2:65. doi: 10.3389/fmars.2015.00065

This is awesome, Jim. Has Gil and Eric sent you the file for the GoPro mount prototype for Trident?

Not yet. As soon as I get it, I'll get it made and start testing. Thanks!

Additional Tech Shake Down:

As with all expeditions, the unexpected happens, always. This past weekend, we did not get to Indian Lake due to a logistics issue that, though not hanging up the weekend, did put us into contact with the PA Department of Conservation and Natural Resources, a positive way!


Saving the dive weekend, we adjusted our target to this small man made treasure in the middle of the PA Appalachian Mountain Range....and we are glad we did. Now, spoiler, we didn't see anything spectacular on this dive, however, we did learn something.

It turns out that this used to be a very popular local swimming hole since the 1930's when it was built in the middle of Forbes State Forest. They built it by blocking up Kooser Run. This is a historical site as well. It was the site of a large Native American battle and was crossed by participants in the Whiskey Rebellion 1791-1794.

That's pretty fantastic!

If you are unfamiliar with the Whiskey Rebellion, I encourage you to look it up. It's perhaps one of the lost episodes of the developing factors of our country and why we do some of the things we do as a government, today.

Anyway, not to get side tracked, since we are responsible servants of the public, we decided to stop by the ranger's office to ensure we had permission to dive the ROV on state lands (you'd may be surprised what some states can get excited about), and we were glad we did. We met a very nice Ranger who let us fly the ROV in the lake. It is also important to note that the Lake part of the park was technically closed to the public that day.

Moving on, the link below provides some of the videos we took and photos of the trip. It was cold the morning of March 31st.

Raw Video Feeds:

Dives and Pilot Training 1 Dives and Pilot Training 2 Dives and Pilot Training 3

There wasn't much to see here, but we had fun. While flying, we noticed something. This was a fishing hole that was apparently restocked recently. Not only that, there was a great deal of silt, though the visibility was good since it was damn near freezing, with beautifully clear melt water running down into the lake from the adjacent mountain side. We weren't prepared for a water sample of silt sample, again due to the logistic hiccup, and hindsight being what it is, this got us thinking.

Now, Kooser Lake used to be a popular swimming hole. Very popular. But not anymore. We were told that is shut down indefinitely in 2012. A little searching, we found an article,

Well that's just sad. We did notice aquatic vegetation through the clear water while walking to the lake, and the office ranger did mention that an upcoming silt removal program was about to happen, as noted in the above link to the DCNR site.

Algal Blooms...and silt...mmm for those of us learned about bay issues, we know that the two tend to go hand in hand when you have run off with high amounts of nutrients in it.

Given, it's 2018, the swimming aspect of the park has been closed for 6 years.

If you take a quick look at Google Maps, above the lake on the mountain, what do you see? Yep, a golf course, part of the Beautiful Hidden Valley Ski Resort. I've been there, it's a great resort, super bummer.

Now, we have no data to point to the Course as a source of the nutrients and sediment that have been plaguing the Lake, but we have common key indicators that point a problem and a near by possible source. But we also must not that there are houses up stream, on Kooser Run, and if you look at the map you see, right next to Hidden Valley, a Stone and Lime Quarry.

Man, this just keeps getting worse. Now we really need to have a conversation.

We spoke with some folks about the lake. Some swam there all their lives...until now. Wait, aren't we supposed to be getting better at this environmental stuff? We are better equipped and educated these days, aren't we?

Well, it's a problem that needs to be addressed. This marks a site that is in decline, in our books.

We need data, the DNRC needs your help!

I hope this is a flag to you. Our waters are not clean.

But let's not get depressed, let us be energized and take this as an indicator that we need constant vigilance and to get out there and explore.

Now, what to do with Kooser? We are working on this...if you have ideas and energy, please let us know. If you live in Somerset County and want to do something about this, let us know!

Also, we know that this was not a full and well done assessment. Far from it, but it peak our interest and we plan to return and provide information for the Ranger's Office, DNRC.

The Ranger's Office also informed us about another destination that no one knows what the bottom looks like....well if that's not a call to action, I don't know what is. Blue Hole...yes, that's it's name. A local fishing and swimming hole. That will definitely be a target when we get back into the area.

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Sadly, we did not get our funding from a recent call. But no worries, we are still pushing forward!

Our 1st Watershed dive will be this weekend! In beautiful south western PA. Indian Lake, located in Central City, PA, is a fresh water horseshoe shaped man made lake that was established in 1966.

Indian Lake is located at 40°2′51″N 78°51′33″W

Total Size 4.35 sq mi (11.26 km2) • Land 3.56 sq mi (9.23 km2) • Water 0.79 sq mi (2.04 km2)

The lake is separated via a dam from it's neighbor lake, Stony Creek lake, which is part of the Stony Creek River. It is also 1.5 miles from Flight 93 National memorial.

This site is important environmentally because of the housing developments that surrounds it. Water quality assessments and benthic observations will be taken and posted once ready.

We'll also be shaking down the fresh water characteristics of the OpenROV and BlueRobotics vehicles. We'll post on that as we come to it!

Stay tuned...


Excited to see what you find. Also, stay tuned for next weeks updates regarding funding options.

Greetings Enthusiasts!

We had a few minutes before a meeting at the Virginia Aquarium and decided to take the Trident for a spin. Though the water was very murky, we took a look at a few the pier and found a nice little blue crab. Take a look at the last minute or so of the below video.

We will be running through our Blue Robotics BlueROV 1.5 kit this weekend as well. We'll post more as we go.

Stay tuned for project updates as we are awaiting pitch results from Here Be Dragons symposium and ideathon we attended at MIT Media labs.

Additionally, we have good news for the Bay! The new federal budget signed not hours ago restored funding to the Bay program!

This is great news, and now we hope to continue helping the Bay. Hopefully, we'll supplement the program with this great opportunity to for outreach and innovation!


Greetings Enthusiasts!

Some preparation dives with the OpenROV Trident. Here are some videos of a few dives. This was a checkout run, getting used to the controls and what not in the app.

Trident Test Dives, SMith Landing, Poquoson River.

The Trident is one such platform that is intended to execute many of the tasks envisioned in this project. Next week, we will test a version of the Blue Robotics BlueRov kit as well, to start generating local interest in the project.

More to come! Please do not hesitate to contact me if you are interested in joining!

We are currently looking for funding for the pilot program here in the Hampton Roads area. We are setting up the funding options on the page and will update you when ready.

In the meantime, we are working on project documentation, budget estimates and schedules. We will post them shortly. We will also post some of the pitches we have done or are doing as we move forward with this effort.

We need your help! Please contact us if you feel you would like to contribute in any way.

I'd love to talk with you about this. Please email me directly,

The Bay is under siege. Our federal government has slashed the EPA's Chesapeake Bay Program by 90 percent!

We must find new ways to help our beloved ecosystem. For our economy, our children, and our planet.

Our government representatives don't see that they are crippling themselves and our country. Let's educate and solve this problem together, let's innovate and become the stewards of our world as we were meant to be.

The gap has been identified in the reluctance of our representatives to continue to steward our country, let's take this as an opportunity to be active, creative, and educate one another, care for one another, and help each other understand the importance of the Bay and maintaining a healthy balance between economics and ecology. Let's forgive shortsightedness and press ever forward!

We are better than this!

Picture from Chesapeake Bay Magazine: Trash & debris on the Susquehanna River. Photo: Chesapeake Bay Program


This is a great project Jim. Did you know the National Park Service was born from a similar breakdown in federal support for protected places. The pendulum can swing back, and this project is a step in the right direction.

Thanks David! I just spent 2 days at MIT Here be Dragons with Gil, great time and interesting opportunities there. More to come

Expedition Background

The Chesapeake Bay is a dangerously out of balance ecosystem. Concerning a 64,000 square mile watershed, populated with 18 million people, and housing 3,000 different species of plants and animals, daily stresses on the bay have negatively impacted the ecology. This has triggered the need for agreements between Maryland, Pennsylvania, Virginia, the District of Columbia, and Delaware that recognized the need for the cleanup of the bay in 1983, with a target year of 2000. The 40 percent reduction agreement was reaffirmed in 1992 and led to the first state of the bay assessment in 1998, rating the health of the bay at 27 out of 100 (100 representing pristine waters). This signified that though the watershed states wanted to clean the bay, the Chesapeake was far from healthy and clean.

When it became apparent that the 2000 deadline would not be met, the states convened and signed a third agreement. The Chesapeake 2000 agreement set a goal of improving water quality in the Bay sufficiently to get it off the Clean Water Act's "dirty waters list" by 2010. Among other steps, the 2000 agreement required a 40 percent reduction in nitrogen and phosphorus pollution. In 2006, EPA admitted the terms of the 2000 agreement would not be met by the 2010 deadline—indeed likely not until 2020 or later, and in 2010, the Chesapeake Bay Foundation rated the bay in a "State of the Bay" report card, grading it a 31 out of 100.

Though improvements had been made, it is clear, with the current rating of 34, there is still a great deal of work needed to continue the trend to obtain a grade of at least 70, which is considered a saved state.

The figure below details the 3 primary windows into the health of the bay with associated key indicators. As can be seen, the indicator grades are very low for the pollution level and fishery health windows, with only slightly better scoring for the habitat window.

Yet so much more needs to be done to ensure the current increase in Bay health continues. Alongside advocacy groups such as the Chesapeake Bay Foundation and Chesapeake Bay Program that continue to work with both industry and government to push legislature and monitoring initiatives, there is a constant need for community involvement for stewardship of the delicate bay ecosystem.

We propose a pilot program that targets students and citizen scientists using novel low cost technologies to educate, stimulate, and motivate stewardship while deploying a web-based interactive science platform(s) for assessment, restoration and conservation of the Chesapeake Bay watershed.


The pilot program will lay the foundation to bring together citizen scientists and students over a 6 week period to become educated on the Chesapeake Bay ecology and science technologies and to design/build and deploy project platform(s) that are tied into an integrated data collection system(s) and allow for remote observation/operation for continued ecological monitoring in the York river.

This Pilot effort will introduce new technologies and educate public through the use of low cost science platforms such as Buoys, remotely operated vehicles, autonomous vehicles, and aerial systems. This pilot program will also utilize the VECOS, CBIBS, GLOBE, and OpenExplorer platforms for data reporting and remote collaboration.

The pilot effort is currently working on collaboration efforts between government and private industry helping bring together the program and platform(s). The potential of a public/private collaboration for science outreach has great potential in accelerating education and advocacy regionally, and with the help of industry partners, the potential to be recognized not only nationally, but globally as a cutting edge program should invigorate and incentivize local communities, local and state leaders. The objective is clear; get more people involved into taking greater consideration for the Chesapeake Bay ecosystem while teaching and inspiring the next generation of government and industry leaders.


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